How honest is travel writing?

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions
cartoon of a traveller

how biased are the stories of the travel writer? © Dan Sperrin

Recently I wrote about some of the problems with celebrities fronting television programmes. One issue is that celebrities and film crews are not treated like holidaymakers and travellers.

The same applies to travel writers.

Sine I wrote that story a week or so ago I have thought about how mollycoddled we, as travel writers, can be. By that I mean that when travel writers go on a press trip, they are spoon-fed information, taken to places that the destination wants them to see and generally have little time off to see other sides of that destination. In both cases, the average traveller will not have that assistance.

On the other hand, we can ask difficult questions and find out information that the ordinary visitor may not.

Because a writer writes what is shown to them on a press trip there is a bias to what they write. But then travel writers nor destinations can be expected to cover everything.

The life of a travel writer might seem appealing but early starts, late ends to a day, travelling with few breaks and having to write a story before it disappears from one’s mind before the next place on a visit overrules that knowledge can be tiring. And many writers get paid a pittance because that is what the market rate is unless you write for a national newspaper. Most do it for a love of travel. Freelance writers outnumber those in paid employment by a huge number. Publications couldn’t exist without those freelancers.

Yet travel writers couldn’t afford, nor could their publications, to do without the help of the destinations, tour operators and airlines. They could only manage trips that they could afford. Who wants to read stories just about the UK and Ireland plus the odd trip to Spain or another part of Europe?

Whenever readers see a story, do they take into account the assistance the travel writer has been given? Do they judge in monetary terms how much they would have to pay for similar guidance? The answer is probably no.

Should travel publications be more transparent? Simon Calder in the Independent is billed as “The Man who Pays his Way.” Most other writers just list the tour operator, airline or cruise company that subsidised or funded their trip their trip.

Just about Travel has provided links to the destinations that its writers visit. It hasn’t accepted free trips from UK tour operators but has from some airlines, train companies and tourist destinations.

From January 1st 2017,  articles will list at the end of the story, which companies or destinations supplied services so readers can make up their own minds. If no listing appears, readers can be assured that the writers arranged, organised and paid for it themselves.

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